Friday, September 18, 2009

Summer's Top 150: Personal Development

It's not just up to our bosses and supervisors to change; we too have something to learn and improve:
  1. A Tendency to Blame and an Inability to Confront
  2. Stopping a victim mentality (taking responsibility for your life)
  3. Two Steps to Simplify Your Workday
  4. Want a Great Primer in Leadership? Work for a Bastard and Take Notes
  5. 3-3 quick tips for Listening Skills
  6. Respectfully Speaking, Your Respect for Others Will Serve You Well
  7. Criticism - Much Ado About “Nothing”
  8. Screw Your Career Path. Live Your Story
  9. What Stories Are in Your Bedrock?
  10. Monday LeaderTip: How to Stop Coasting
  11. My 10 Favorite Leadership Lessons
  12. 11 Steps To Being A Better Leader
  13. 100 Ways to Be a Better Leader
  14. What is your Signature difference?
  15. Defining your job
  16. 12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness
  17. Overcome the 3 Reasons Leaders Fail To Reflect On The Past
  18. How To Be Coachable
  19. Making Amends
  20. So you think you can lead?
  21. Intelligent, But Not Wise
  22. How to Coax Feedback out of a Reluctant Manager
  23. To Multitask Effectively, Focus on Value, Not Volume
  24. Our Responses to Online Content Match Our Responses to Collaboration
  25. The Three Sins of Teamwork at School
  26. Better Meetings: Decide How To Decide
  27. How to Make Knowledge Work Fun
  28. Two Voices on: The Words of a Leader
  29. Trumpets
  30. Re-Visioning Visionary Leaders
  31. What Is A Leadee?
  32. 7 Signs of Creative Professional Learning Communities
  33. Questions of Accountability for Professional Learning Communities
  34. Professional Learning Communities Overcome Collaboration Barriers Through Unifying Goals
  35. How Groups Form, Conform, Then Warp Our Decision-Making, Productivity and Creativity
  36. 10 Rules That Govern Groups
  37. Why Group Norms Kill Creativity
  38. Overcoming the “Hoarding” Barrier in Professional Learning Communities
  39. 11 Traits of Highly Creative Students
  40. 20 Ways to Get Mentally Tough
  41. 9 Ways to Beat Negativity
  42. Feed the Positive Dog
  43. Strengths and Purpose
  44. 20 Great Coaching Questions that can Catalyze Breakthroughs
  45. How Are You Defying "Best Practice"?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Summer's Top 150: Supervision & Performance Management

I know, I know. This "dump post" includes way too many articles. But the topic is soooo important!
  1. Three Questions for Potential Managers to Ask Themselves
  2. New Managers: Alone and Out of Their Depths
  3. Middle Managers: The Meat in the Sandwich
  4. Caring for Your People: Part of the Boss's Job
  5. The Penny Challenge
  6. How to Have More Productive Performance Appraisals
  7. The Dreaded Performance Review
  8. Straight Talk in a Slump
  9. What Leaders Can Learn from a Doctor About How to Deliver Bad News
  10. 7 Mistakes Bosses Make When Giving Criticism
  11. Ask Three Questions to Clarify Expectations
  12. Managers Who Coach Ask Questions That Enlighten
  13. Managers Who Coach: Overcome Dependency
  14. Develop Outstanding Employees Utilizing Effective Feedback
  15. Better Mentoring
  16. Adding a few points to Seth on leadership
  17. How To Inaugurate Effectiveness In Your Project Team
  18. If You Want Accountability, You Must Grant Authority
  19. It’s Not About FINDING Talent. It’s about IDENTIFYING and TAPPING What You Already Have
  20. Promotions and job fit
  21. What Alienates Top Performers
  22. Rewarded Employees Work Harder
  23. The Art of Giving Praise
  24. Leading Clever People
  25. Nine Ways to Identify Natural Leaders
  26. How to Identify Your Employees' Hidden Talents
  27. Empowering Leaders: Hand Over Your Keys
  28. Handling Quit-and-Stays
  29. Problem children: Dealing with whiney, crybaby malcontents in your ranks
  30. Management Interview Questions and Answers
  31. What makes a good boss?
  32. Stop Demotivating Me!
  33. Leadership: Intentional Influence
  34. Does Your Do Match Your Tell?
  35. How to Handle the Pessimist on Your Team

Monday, September 14, 2009

Summer's Top 150: Management Thought

It has been nearly two months since I have posted anything on my blog, and exactly three months since I have shared any article recommendation.

I'm going to make up for the lost time by doing a 6-part blitz of the 150 best articles / blog posts / podcasts / videos that I have come across over the summer. So brace yourself!!!
  1. Gary Hamel's “moonshots for management”, part 1, 2, and 3
  2. Essential Reading for Management Revolutionaries
  3. More Must-Reads for Management Revolutionaries
  4. Management MUST Be Reinvented
  5. Just Managing
  6. The Elitist Undertones of Leadership
  7. Leadership Is Responsibility, Not Power
  8. Rethinking the MBA
  9. Managers Not MBAs: Debating the Merits of Business Education
  10. Searching for balance (Interview with Henry Mintzberg)
  11. Long time blogger Carmine Coyote retires from blogging

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Not-So-Inconvenient Renewal, Episode III: 1000 Managers

It looks like my last post has upset or turned off quite a few people. It is quite evident that to some readers, I'm coming across as a frustrated and arrogant little "Joe-know-it-all". It's not unusual for me to get that, and honestly, it is partly true(!).

What is also true is that the majority of my readership doesn't know me personally and therefore is not in the best position to fully appreciate where I'm coming from when I write some of my posts.

The discussion that followed the post (which by the way is the most interaction I've seen on my blog since I created it three and a half years ago) made me reflect on why am I the way that I am, why am I so passionate about good people management, and why I will sometime go overboard to push for my agenda.

I could trace the roots all the way back to high school, to a number of very formative experiences I've had in the numerous jobs that I have held, and to a series of specific incidents that I have been involved in since I joined the public service. To make a long story short, there's some history there, and it's only the kind of stuff that I share intimately with friends after a few glasses of wine. The take-away is that life shapes you as a person, as an employee... and as a blogger.

Don't worry, I will spare you the details before this post turns into a soap opera, but I will say that relatively few people are aware of the details of my journey in the public service. Those who are familiar with the stories are typically in disbelief when they find out about some of the situations I have experienced (and still am going through), and consequently have a different perspective when they later read my blog posts (not that they necessarily condone what I say).

Regardless, in my last post I breached to various degrees the three guidelines I had set for myself and tried my best to apply when I started blogging:
  1. Depersonalize the issues as much as possible. It's about ideas, not people.
  2. Be constructive rather than adversarial.
  3. Trade cynical comments for arguments that support what a lot of people are thinking quietly.
As a blogger, this is what I can (and should) be providing: a storyline, a rationale, a logical argument that most people are unable to express or unwilling to express publicly - much less in writing or on a blog.

I still have a lot to learn, but those are the general guidelines I normally use when I submit my post. In the case of "Revenge of the Contrarian Thinker", I will admit that I have failed my own censorship.

What is done is done, and as one of my readers wrote to me: "Don't apologize for feeling the way you felt when you wrote your post." If however my post has offended you or turned you off, I want to let you know that I am sorry.

Now on to better things...

I don't pretend to have invented renewal - I haven't. In fact, I never used the word "renewal" until PS Renewal was launched, and I was actually fairly critical of the choice of words in the introduction of "An Inconvenient Renewal".

So when I joined my current organization, saw the poor state it was in, and found a director who shared similar views about how he wanted to change it, we set out not to "renew" the organization, but simply treat employees the way we would like to be treated as employees. The PSES results may not be empirical evidence of renewal, but I like to think (perhaps naively) that it is currently the best (and only?) means available to measure the link between leadership, personal ownership, action, and results, as seen by employees. This is the reason why I tend to give so much weight to the PSES as an indicator of our efforts: the measures are consistent with the approach we took to renewal in our organization.

The so-called "renewal" experienced in my organization is not a new idea, nor is it innovative. What distinguishes our organization from others is that we have actually translated the ideas into actions, relentlessly pursued them, and made sure they reached every employee in every corner of the organization. As I keep repeating in my presentations and articles, there's absolutely nothing novel, complex or complicated in what we have done; the hard part is actually doing it, because you have to do it every single day.

You must be open to new and challenging ideas. You must be willing to have difficult conversations with employees. You must practice truth-telling. You must make unpopular decisions. You must welcome criticism. And you must apologize to employees and be held accountable for your missteps. I know few people willing to do all of this, and even fewer organizations where this is commonplace.

Managers must also believe that by putting people first, they will be in a better position to address the demands and pressures of their jobs. This, however, requires a significant investment upfront before seeing and appreciating the payoff.

So if it is true that most managers care for people management, then why are the people who find out about my organization's renewal story so inspired and hopeful for the future? Rather than risking to draw more criticism upon myself, I will leave it up to you, the readers of this blog, to propose your own explanation as to what the gap or problem is. I already have my own theory.

There is hope. My organization is a fairly small one: about 200 employees. In other words, we represent less than one thousandth (1/1000) of the federal public service. This also means that if 1000 managers who are each in charge of approximately 200 employees would take a similar approach to people management as we have done, the entire public service could undergo a pretty radical change.

1000 managers. Think of it. It is really not that many. The big question is: Who will those 1000 managers be?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Not-So-Inconvenient Renewal, Episode II: Revenge of the Contrarian Thinker

Well, the last few weeks have been… hum… interesting to say the least. Indeed, I’ve met more challenges than what I expected with regards to release of the results of the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) for my organization.

The first challenge came immediately after I circulated a preliminary analysis of the PSES where I compared the performance of my organization from 2005 to 2008. Very quickly, voices in my Department started to claim that "we can’t compare the results of the 2005 and 2008 surveys". So much in fact, that the direction provided to the managers was just short of instructing them not to compare the results. I found this most unfortunate, because the PSES provided a pretty detailed picture of the progress made by my organization and all the work that went into it, and now, some people almost seemed eager to sweep it all under the rug, as if it never happened. So much for performance management and the need to set measurable benchmarks!

The second challenge I faced was when I approached the Communications branch of my Department to find ways of sharing the story of the renewal experienced in my organization, thinking that it may be inspiring for managers to know that renewal is possible, and putting people first actually makes a big difference. Let’s just say that I didn’t exactly find the support I was hoping for, and I was literally stunned by the reasons I was given:
  • A link can be made with PS Renewal, and the Department is not the authority for PS Renewal and the PSES – the Clerk and the Chief HR Officer are. (Therefore the Department won’t authorize me to speak about our results on the PSES and our renewal story.)
  • We don’t want to draw any attention to any organization in particular. (So much for striving for excellence in the public service – instead, one should always try to reach for the lowest common denominator!)
  • The 2005 PSES results for my organization were so poor, that it may look bad on the Department. (But if we need to “renew”, isn’t it to change to something “better”? Because if that’s the case and if we end up with something “better”, we must at one point have started with something that was “worse” than what we have now…)
The third challenge came in the form of four requests I received to be removed from my mailing list in the days after I released “A Not-So-Inconvenient Renewal: What Happens When Managers Change the Way They Manage”. In itself, I have no problem with people asking me to be removed from my mailing list. But in this specific case, all four requests came from Executives of the public service. If anyone needs to pay a little attention to PS Renewal and the PSES, and how we can create better organization through improved people management, I would think it should be the 4000+ executives of the PS. Now I don’t have 4000 executives on my mailing list, but nevertheless, I thought four of them asking to be removed after receiving my document was four too many.

But before jumping to conclusions, I assumed for a moment that maybe their organizations were so well-run that they didn’t have anything to learn from our experience. So I tried to track down the PSES results for those four organizations and compare their numbers to ours. I could only identify one organization with certainty and get its PSES results for both 2005 and 2008, but happily it was also the organization for which the person who had written to me asking to be removed from my mailing list was the highest-ranking of the group: a CEO/President of a public service agency, who I assume is probably an EX-4, and most importantly, the person responsible for the entire organization!
The comparison is available here. Using the same methodology as I did in my previous analysis, I compiled the data in two tables:
  1. The 2005 and 2008 PSES results for my organization and this “undisclosed” organization.
  2. A direct comparison of the 2008 results between the two organizations.
Have a look at the numbers, and draw your own conclusions. Once again, the results speak for themselves. However, I will draw your attention to two questions in particular:
  • Q. 55. I believe that senior management has made progress toward resolving the issues raised in the 2005 Public Service Employee Survey.
  • Q. 54. I believe that senior management will try to resolve concerns raised in this survey.
It seems to me that these two all-encompassing questions provide a pretty good clue as to the kind of leadership we are likely to find in an organization, and should therefore be the first two questions managers consider if they take PS Renewal and the PSES seriously. So I invite you to do the same, and find out what are the PSES results to these two questions for your organization, and how it has progressed from 2005 to 2008.

By the way, if you happen to be the Clerk or the Chief HR Officer, and want to know who the four executives who asked to be removed from my mailing list are, feel free to give me a ring! ;-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Not-So-Inconvenient Renewal: What Happens When Managers Change the Way They Manage

If you have been following my work over the last couple of years, you may be wondering if I actually practice what I preach with regards to organization renewal, change management, and most importantly, people management.

Every three years, the federal public service of Canada administers a government-wide survey called the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES). The 2005 PSES was administered just a week before I joined my current organization. The last PSES was administered in November and December 2008, and the results were released a few weeks ago. I have done the analysis, and the results speak for themselves: renewal is possible, and yes, people management does make a difference!

I have just put together a document entitled "A Not-So-Inconvenient Renewal: What Happens When Managers Change the Way They Manage". It presents the dramatic progress made by my organization between 2005 and 2008, as measured by the PSES.

The document is an epilogue to An Inconvenient Renewal: Are Public Service Managers Ready to Change the Way They Manage?, a paper I released in 2007 in which I stressed the importance of good people management and argued that while top-down change has its merits, many of the things that would make the most significant and palpable difference don’t happen at the top of the organization, but rather at the field level in the everyday interactions between managers and their employees.

I hope the PSES results will convince you that when managers change the way they manage, the ripple effects can be felt throughout the organization. To learn more about the renewal efforts in my organization, you may browse through some of the links featured in the side-bar of my blog under the header "My Websites, Papers, and Other Initiatives".

Enjoy you reading, and please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any question.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Awesome Reading Recommendations

I've been away for the last two weeks, both for work and leisure. When I returned I had over 300 articles waiting for me in my RSS reader. I managed to process them all, and here are my top recommendations, arranged by themes:

On Staffing:
  1. Interviewing Doesn’t Work
  2. The Job Mismatch Problem - The Five Costs of the Wrong Employee In The Wrong Seat
  3. Interview questions for a Team Leader

On Thinking:
  1. Executive Behaviors, Your Boss Has No Clothes and Revolution from the Bottom
  2. Risk, Bravado and Their Consequences
  3. Change Your Thinking To Change Your Results!
  4. Being Strategic: The Antidote to Fear

On Collaboration:
  1. 8 Suggestions to Improve Your Team’s Problem Solving Skills
  2. 12 Ways To Listen
  3. The Ten Cultural Elements Of Collaboration In [Communities]
  4. Collective Intelligence (video)
  5. Toe Stepping Up The Corporate Ladder (a satire!)

On creativity and innovation:
  1. What is the True Value of Creativity to Organizations?
  2. Cultivate A Culture of Creativity
  3. The How of Innovation
  4. Twitter's Ten Rules For Radical Innovators
  5. Prospect theory, risk and innovation

On Leadership:
  1. Leadership and the Art of Apology
  2. How Do You Spot an Emerging Leader?
  3. Leading By Example & Mistaken Beliefs
  4. Leveraging Your Strengths
  5. Learning from Mistakes Takes the Right Feedback
  6. Everybody Knows About Your Weaknesses – Do You?
  7. Don’t Gamble On Your Performance Review
  8. Three Important Questions
  9. Stop Making Excuses
  10. Exert Ownership in Your Workplace
  11. The Circle of Care
  12. 8 Steps for Acting on Inspiration
  13. Culture and Engagement
  14. Rejecting the Default Culture
  15. Trauma Free Renewal
  16. 3 Paths to Development
  17. Authority, Leadership, and Truth
  18. Generals Win Battles but Sergeants Win Wars
  19. What Leaders Must Do Next

  1. Your Firm’s Values Have No Teeth
  2. Going Beyond MBA Oaths
  3. Battling it Out During Tough Times: MBAs vs. Entrepreneurs
  4. Is it Time to Sell My Management Books?
  5. 5 Reasons You Keep Getting Stuck

And my favourite quote of the week:

"If you perform at your personal best, doing everything possible to make a success of the immediate situation, then doing it as a ‘leader’ or a ‘follower’ has no meaning." (Miki Saxon)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Dump Post: New Format

I'm back from a short but activity-packed vacation in Tofino with my old friend Patrick Di Fruscia who I had not seen in nearly 10 years. In addition to being a great travel companion, Patrick taught me a few photography tricks and as a result, I felt like my pictures improved in a matter of just a few days. Still, I have quite a bit of work to do before I can catch up to the level of his talent.

Speaking of photography, a new picture of the Tiananmen Square protests' "Tank Man" was published last week. I have used the photo seen across the world in one of my presentation to illustrate courage, but I find this new picture even more dramatic, as "Tank Man" can be seen walking towards the tanks, while everyone else is running in the opposite direction. I wonder what happened to him. I hope someday we will find out.

Some readers have written to me asking for a brief description of what the links I recommend are about. I'm testing the new format. Here we go:
  1. I've never been a big fan of the "symphony conductor as leader" analogy, but this post is actually quite good: 8 Things Leaders Can Learn from Symphony Conductors.
  2. Ann Bares asks "whether we should focus on being the best places or the best high performance places to work" in Rewards Metrics: Engagement versus the Bottom Line.
  3. Carmine Coyote offers a very interesting perspective on motivation in Musings About Motivation and Mike Chitty responds.
  4. Lots of interesting comments to Gary Hamel's post about "deep-seated impediments". The one left by Kausar Fahim especially rings true with me.
  5. MBAs have been getting a pretty bad rep lately, and this podcast entitled MBA: Most Bloody Awful explains why.
  6. Want to learn how to make a good presentation? Here are some lessons learned from TED and Change This, and Six Secrets of Top Communicators.
  7. Art Petty offers a common sense approach to management in general and project management
  8. Chris Brogan distinguishes between audience and community.
  9. Mark Gould navigates the seven Cs of knowledge.
  10. David Eaves discusses Public Service and Citizen Engagement in the Information Age.
  11. Three ways to impress your employees
  12. In what I found to be one of the most profound presentations ever made at TED, Liz Coleman issues a call to reinvent liberal arts education and criticizes the fact that "the expert has dethroned the educated generalist to become the sole model of intellectual accomplishment". Watching her talk, I could think of quite a few implications for change management and the federal public service.
Your feedback is always appreciated.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some "Must-Read" Posts

A short selection of the finest posts I ran into in the past week:
  1. Quiz: Does Your Work Matter to You?
  2. The System Is Broken. Will B-Schools Help Fix it?
  3. Ducks In A Row: Teams Rule (Staffing)
  4. Leaders: Frame Your Messages for Maximum Impact
  5. How To Have "Beautiful" PLC and Team Meetings: 12 Ways To Disagree
  6. 6 Networking Mistakes And How to Avoid Them
  7. How Group Decisions Go Wrong
  8. Management skills must include ‘translation’
  9. Some irrational thoughts on training and change management
  10. Culture Matters
  11. The times they are a-changin'
  12. 10 Principles of Change Management
Also, I couldn't help to read over and over this quote from the New Zealand public service's Principles for interaction with social media:
"As an agency representative: The protocols that apply when you are acting as an official representative of your agency are the same whether you are talking to the media, speaking at a conference or using social media. Good practice is to disclose your position and that you are representing your agency. You should only disclose information, make commitments or engage in activities when you are authorised to do so. You should remember that your comments will often be permanently available and able to be reproduced in other media."
Hum... where do I fit in this?

Have a good week!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The "Digital Water Cooler"

If you haven't already done so, go to CSPSRenewal to read their latest column where they comment on the work of Andrew Keen and draw parallels with GCPEDIA. I believe it is one of their finest posts (at least on par with this other favourite of mine)... and I really liked the "digital water cooler" analogy!

I often laugh at some of the discussion that goes around the water cooler, because the people engaging in them seem to believe that they can solve the world's problems (or at least all the organization's problems!). Of course, rarely any action results from these chats. But what I find fascinating about the "digital water cooler" is that many conversations have actually turned into concrete actions!

That being said, there is some truth to Andrew Keen's controversial quote reported in the post:
“... we use the Web to confirm our own partisan views and link to others with the same ideologies. Bloggers today are forming aggregated communities of like-minded amateur journalists … where they congregate in self-congratulatory clusters. They are the digital equivalent of online gated communities where all the people have identical views and the whole conversation is mirrored in a way that is reassuringly familiar. It's a dangerous form of digital narcissism; the only conversations we want to hear are those with ourselves and those like us.”
Although I don’t like his statement, I must admit that I am guilty of "congregating in self-congratulatory clusters" (i.e. with my friends from CPSRenewal, GC20, etc.). Indeed, it can be construed in part as a form of narcissism. But it must be contrasted with its opposite (i.e. the absence of congregation) in order to be fully appreciated.

Novel ideas are seldom popular, especially if they challenge:
  • The status quo;
  • What has worked well for people in the past;
  • What brought these people success;
  • What characterized the environment that enabled them to succeed.
(For more on this, allow me to indulge in some "self-congratulatory behaviour" and refer you to this post.)

There’s no denying that the vocal minority of individuals upholding new ideas do enjoy sharing with like-minded people and actually need the interaction. But it is much more than simply navel-gazing, or merely a form of support group. I believe it is a necessary step to refine these novel ideas, give them strength, and craft the messaging around them so that they become accessible to and understood by the majority of people who don’t share them yet.

I am one of those individuals who is always looking for great “pieces of writing that will bolster my position”. This is exactly my intent with most of the links I share on this blog. For every great article I come across written by a like-minded blogger, I have reviewed at least 10 to 20 other posts that did not support my position, and I’m not even talking about all the articles that support exact opposite position. In other words, I’m 100% biased, and that is why I have a blog.

As David Eaves suggests, the beauty of blogs is that "they sift through the information that is out there and tease out what is important and what is relevant and write it up in a readable and accessible fashion." If you accept the inherent bias of blogs (and I am definitely not suggesting that blogs are more biased than newspapers or other media), blogs can be a goldmine of information and insight.

Blogging, like so many other editorial forms, filters the information to make it relevant for readers. Furthermore, blogs - just like books or any other media - offer something that readers are looking for: perspective. That's where bloggers offer a unique value: they provide a storyline, a rationale, a logical argument that articulates what people are feeling, a framework for thinking about complex issues. Most people don't run short of opinions; what they sometime lack though are the arguments that would give weight to their opinions and a narrative to tie these arguments together. The purpose of a blog is not to be objective, but to offer a point-of-view.

In that regard, there's no question that Web 2.0 levels the playing field between "amateurs" and "professionals". But no matter in which camp you fall, credibility remains a key currency. The democratizing power of the Web closes the credibility gap between professionals and amateurs. This can be worrisome for professionals whose status is at risk of losing ground. Let's now consider the federal public service and GCPEDIA.

The public service’s highly professional workforce is composed in large part of specialists: experts in their respective domain. Traditionally, it takes years before one can establish him or herself as an expert - approximately 10,000 hours as Malcom Gladwell and Geoff Colvin suggest. But while historically, one would get these 10,000 hours from their day job, the rules have changed and people can now develop their expertise on the corner of their desk or after-hours.

Enters GCPEDIA, and more broadly, the democratization of the Web. All of a sudden, the old rules no longer applied. The accomplished experts and specialists who, up until this point, pretty much decided what information and ideas would get filtered in or filtered out, no longer have a monopoly on knowledge and now face some competition of their own in the form of “amateur” experts and specialists, thanks to GCPEDIA and social networking websites in general. Anyone with a brain and a perspective can now have meaningful influence and develop and expertise.

Personally, GCPEDIA has been hugely beneficial in allowing me to share information, knowledge and perspectives that would otherwise (and in fact has been) filtered through the chain of command or by process gate-keepers. Now it is made accessible to anyone and everyone. Scary thought? You decide ;-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Case for Managing Employee Performance

One of the recurring themes in my presentations (“Bottom-Up Renewal”, “Living Renewal”) as well as in my writings (“An Inconvenient Renewal”, this blog) has been performance management, more specifically: managing the performance of employees.

Today I made a presentation to my department’s PS Renewal Committee on this topic. I have uploaded the PowerPoint on GCPEDIA. For those of you who don’t have access to GCPEDIA, here’s the gist of it:

Firstly, it is important to distinguish between performance management as in “organization performance” vs. “employee performance”. The two concepts are interrelated, but have very different implications for supervisors.

Secondly, despite all the criticism against bureaucracy, the “public service of Canada employee performance management framework” (i.e. legislation, TBS policies and guidelines, collective agreements, etc.) is simple and straightforward. One of the most compelling quotes I came across actually comes from this overview of the Financial Administration Act:
“Performance management is a key enabler of effective human resources management and the achievement of organizational effectiveness and results. Effective performance management fosters integration of employee performance with organizational goals and results; engagement, responsibility and accountability for on-the-job performance and organizational results; and, fairness, consistency and transparency in the treatment, recognition and promotion of people. Integral to performance management are leadership, communication, coaching, mentoring, learning, development and recognition. Performance management results in a work culture in which excellence in performance is encouraged and recognized, and unsatisfactory performance effectively managed.”
Many tools and resources are available to supervisors to manage employee performance and hone their skills. Nevertheless, employee performance management is not valued and practiced as much as other management activities (i.e. financial management). There is currently a strong push for employee performance management in the public service. However for some reason people management in general is still not something that is commonly measured.

But if:
  • the management of employee performance and organizational performance are interdependent...
  • the management of employee performance is the responsibility of every supervisors...
  • the prescriptions and instruments for the management of employee performance are built into legislation, collective agreements, TBS guidelines, policies and directives, and departmental policies...
  • and the tools and resources for the management of employee performance are widely available to all public servants...
...Why is the management of employee performance a major weakness throughout most of the public service?

Is it because:
  • Organizational performance is possible without employees?
  • Employee performance management is less important than organizational performance management?
  • We tolerate poor employee performance management where we would never allow poor financial management?
  • Employee performance management is just optional?
Managing employee performance management is simple. The hard part is actually doing it, because most: s
  • Most supervisors are not appointed in their role based on their ability to manage employee performance;
  • Supervisors must manage employee performance every single day (as opposed to once a year);
  • Supervisors must be willing to have difficult conversations with employees;
  • Supervisors must practice truth-telling;
  • Supervisors must make unpopular decisions;
  • Supervisors must face their greatest fears.
With this in mind, the rest of my presentation focuses on the steps my organization has taken to make the management of employee performance a priority and “raise the bar”.

As potential solutions, I also offer the following:
  • Give employee performance management as much importance as we give to organizational performance management.
  • Be as diligent and rigorous with people management as we are with financial management (both of which, ironically, derive their authorities from the FAA).
  • Increase focus on day-to-day management of employee performance (not just on the annual performance appraisals).
  • Appoint people in supervisory roles based on their people management skills, their ability to manage employee performance, and their willingness to have difficult conversations with employees.
  • If supervisors are able to do the single most difficult aspect of their job well (i.e. managing performance of employees), the rest should follow naturally.
I'm considering turning this presentation into a "talk"... Does it make sense? Is the PS ready for this?

Your feedback is always appreciated.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Last Week's Best

I came across lots of interesting blog posts and links in the past week:
  1. One 'Bad Apple' Really Can Kill the Company
  2. Detoxing Your Team
  3. The Burden of Dealing with Poor Performers: Wear and Tear on the Supervisory Efficacy and Job Satisfaction
  4. Top ten reasons managers become great
  5. How about giving your Boss a Performance Review?
  6. Bully boss or victim?
  7. New research sheds light on bullying in the workplace
  8. Five Sources of Interpersonal Conflict in the Workplace – Part V – Mindset
  9. Leadership’s Future: Education And American Idol
  10. Is Your Team Diverse Or Just Look It?
  11. Pressure, panic and productivity
  12. Pay for Performance and the Business Week 50
  13. From Strategic Planning to Strategic Conversations
  14. What should I do with my life now?
  15. 10 Lessons For Life
  16. Can You Finish This Sentence: "...Teach a Man to Fish, He..."? I Betcha Can't...
  17. Four Ways To Spot Reduced Trust
  18. 3 Key Questions for HR
  19. Are Goals Evil? Here's my favourite insight from the post:
"My company previously used performance reviews that looked at “soft” skills only. We found through analysis that we could basically determine what an employee’s score would be by knowing who their supervisor was. The score was a reflection of the supervisor, not the employee."
You may also check out the original study. Here's the gist of it:
"In this article, we argue that the beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored. We identify specific side effects associated with goal setting, including a narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation."
I am waiting impatiently for the released of the 2008 Public Service Employee Survey results. More than four months have elapsed since the survey was administered and it appears it will take another month to get the results. Hum... If you want to know how I feel about this, check out this video.

Please vote for your three favourite posts on if you haven't already done so! The poll is in the side-bar, at the top.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bottom-Up Change: Video Rebroadcast

If you couldn't attend the original session taped on December 11, 2008, you will be happy to know that CSPS is rebroadcasting "Bottom-Up Change: It Starts With An Individual" on March 26, 2009, in both French and English.

Go to the CSPS Armchair Discussions website to register!